LIFE18 NAT/HU/000799

LIFE18 NAT/HU/000799

Special viper-detection dog helps the conservation of the Hungarian meadow viper

2020.12.05.

Within the frame of the project, a unit with a viper-searching dog started its service at the Directorate of Kiskunság National Park. Edvárd Mizsei, project coordinator of the national park, and his German shepherd dog, Tomi took part in an intensive training session in the last three months, after which they had the to prove their skills at an exam organized at the working dog-training center.

The Hungarian meadow viper is hard to find in its habitats in the Kiskunság. It is no surprise because this small-sized snake has a lot of predators, so it spends most of its life completely hidden in the grass. The monitoring of populations of these furtive species, in other words determining the habitat selection and quantity of individuals, takes a lot of time and effort. Finding a viper may take up to 10-12 hours of continuous search from researchers. We believe that the duration of finding a snake can be significantly lowered with the help of the viper-searching dog. In the hope of estimating population size more accurately and effectively the Kiskunság National Park Directorate created the viper-detection dog unit.

Edvárd Mizsei and Tomi during field training

„During training, Tomi learned to identify the smell of vipers of different ages and sexes and the smell of their shed skins. In the future, it will be our task to determine the occurrence of the Hungarian meadow viper at potentially suitable habitats, the accurate mapping of current occurrences, and data collection in monitoring activities. Tomi is capable of finding a hidden piece of shed skin put in the habitat for testing in a couple of thousand hectares large habitat, and he doesn’t give a false signal for other snake species, neither Grass snakes nor Smooth snakes.”– said Edvárd Mizsei, project and monitoring coordinator, and dog handler of Kiskunság National Park Directorate.

Tomi is not only capable of finding live snakes, but he can smell shed skins too

The vipers have already started hibernation, but our unit continues to work and prepares for the ORFK’s Police Education and Training Center’s Dog Leader-training and Animal Center’s suitability exam, which will be held during the spring of 2021. We hope that with the help of the detection dog unit we get a more accurate depiction of the distribution of the Hungarian meadow viper in the Kiskunság and we can continue the conservational activities more effectively, concentrating only on the habitats where the viper is certainly found.

The training of Edvárd Mizsei and Tomi was held at the service dog training center of Pali Dog Center Kft.